By RYAN PFEIL
Asmall group of local high school artists soon will be strolling among the rows of desks and computer screens where popular animated movie characters such as Shrek first came to life.
The students, part of the LIFE Art — Live, Inspire: Freedom of Expression — program, will be taking the trip March 26-28, stopping off in Redwood City, Calif., to tour DreamWorks Animation Studios. The studio’s productions include “How To Train Your Dragon,” “Shrek” and the “Kung Fu Panda” movies, along with several other popular computer-animated hits.
Students also will visit several San Francisco art galleries and museums. Funds from the United Way and the Oregon Community Foundation’s Latino Partnership Project will help finance the trip.
“The idea is to give a kid opportunities to see what kinds of art are out there,” said Phil Ortega, organization adviser and safe-schools coordinator for the Eagle Point School District.
Students from Eagle Point, North and South Medford high schools and Southern Oregon University will be in the group.
The LIFE Art program provides a creative outlet for expression and support among high school students, and is intended to provide an option for teens who face issues such as gangs, drug use and depression. Members of the group make art, display it in area galleries and work with middle-school students and other youths.
“We want to make a difference in the community,” said North Medford High School student Laura Perez, 18.
Miriam Banuelos, an 18-year-old Eagle Point High School student who will be taking the trip, said she’s looking forward to learning more about art-based employment opportunities. She wants to be an animator. Her senior project is all about the craft.
“It’s the career I really want to go for,” Banuelos said.
She added she’s been interested in art since childhood. It started with watching cartoons. Banuelos started drawing in third and fourth grade and has stuck with it.
“I’m learning how to do comic books right now,” she said.
The group already has taken a trip to Cartoon Network in Los Angeles. Banuelos said an interview with one of the animators there showed her some of the possibilities of pursuing art as a career. She hopes the upcoming Dreamworks Animation tour will be along the same lines.
“It really opened my eyes even more,” she said.
Her 16-year-old sister, Jessica, who wants to be an interior designer, also is excited to make the trip to learn more about artistic career pathways. She’s also eager to take in some of the galleries.
“We don’t really have galleries right here,” Jessica said.
The trip won’t be the first Rogue Valley connection to Dreamworks Animation. Former Medford resident Jennifer Harlow works as an animator at the company. According to the Internet Movie Database, she was part of the crew for “The Croods,” an animated cavemen movie set to be released March 22.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.